…by sending a fungal outbreak that's devoured half the Afghan opium crop. Great news! Less opium means less money for the insurgents who grow it, which means fewer weapons for the Taliban, and a historic (if totally accidental) opening for the U.S. military to crush the terrorists once and for all. Right?
The scarcity dramatically drove up prices so much that officials fear poppy cultivation will prove an irresistible option in the coming year for farmers whom authorities are trying to entice to grow legal crops. And despite the blight, the premium prices probably put about as much drug money into the insurgency's coffers as previously.
In other words, divine intervention just did what eight years of U.S. military occupation couldn't do, namely wipe out half the Afghan opium crop. The result: Absolutely nothing changed.
Waging war on Afghanistan's top export clearly doesn't work. It also makes zero practical fiscal sense for the country: according to a 2007 Strategic Studies Institute report, Afghanistan produces a monopolistic 92 percent of the world's (valuable) illicit opium.
Legalization of the opium trade would allow legitimate merchants to compete with the Taliban in the open market, while making Afghanistan's fragile government less dependent on foreign aid and American political and military backing. If the Afghan government could partner with rural opium growers and effectively nationalize part of the country's crop, they could cut into the Taliban's drug profits while producing a consistent revenue stream (important considering the government barely exists outside the capital right now). This isn't a magic bullet for an insanely complicated conflict, but—as events have just demonstrated—wiping out massive swaths of the Afghan opium crop isn't one either.